Luke Blair: Hard times for the in-house magazine

These must be hard times for the in house magazine. When times are tough, expensively produced internal communications publications are probably the first to feel the pinch.

Luke Blair: don't let employees feel undervalued
Luke Blair: don't let employees feel undervalued

I can understand why. Having recently spent a few days leafing through about 30 of the best examples our industry has to offer as part of a CIPR judging panel, I can tell you there are some big budgets out there.

In the selection I was given, they ranged from a pretty generous £15k per issue to more than £65k per issue – yes, that’s right, per issue. So multiply that by the number of issues per year – in some cases monthly, in others quarterly – and you get a truly gigantic budget for some of these internal magazines.

Now, many of those I assessed were of course not public sector publications and, frankly, if some companies want to spend that much producing magazines for their employees, that is their business.

Equally, many magazines have circulation figures which are well into six figures, so merely printing and distributing these publications is a substantial enterprise for some large organisations, which must then be factored into overall costs per issue.

But still, public or private, you can understand why during these times of austerity, expensively produced glossy publications whose main purpose is to communicate with an organisation’s own staff might be scrutinised rather more closely and budgets trimmed as a result.

Is this the right thing to do?  Well, it is certainly true that during the hard times, particularly if you employ a lot of people, the one thing you should invest in is your own staff – at least, those you still intend to employ.

Cutting internal communications has tipped many institutions under pressure, particularly in the public sector, into full blown crisis – once staff lack regular, accurate information, rumours and negative speculation take hold, and the communications vacuum can suck the lifeblood out of the organisation, from top to bottom.

It is also shortsighted to cut corners in ways which may make employees feel they are undervalued, at precisely the moment you need them to feel appreciated, and loyal.

So generally no, it is not the right thing to do to cut internal communications budgets – and internal magazines – just when you need to be communicating with your staff more engagingly than ever before.

However, we all need to scrutinise costs. There is always some ‘fat’ to be trimmed and yes, some budgets for internal magazines are inordinately large. The best magazines I saw during my judging session – and passed on to the shortlist accordingly – would have made any employee feel valued, engaged by the organisation for which they worked, and informed and enthused by its vision. And none of them had huge production budgets.

Luke Blair is a director at London Communications Agency

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